Bears’ bats break Broncos, stay hot at Bulldog Classic

Photo of Cal Softball
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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Softball and football are not as dissimilar as they seem. The two sports share laser throws, diving catches and signals. Finger flashing behind the plate may just be the signaling cousin of the more conspicuous football audible “Omaha!”

Cal’s 21-4 clobbering of Santa Clara last Wednesday was further proof that the two sports have much in common, as the score was one you might see in an NFL game — well, if safeties were more common.

The blue and gold’s margin of victory, which works out to two touchdowns and a field goal, was made possible by at least two scores in every frame, as well as a 10-run explosion in the fifth. Between three home runs, five doubles, a trio of stolen bases and two-hit outings from five different Bears on the day, there was nothing the Broncos could do to slow Cal’s offensive tear.

“We’re always thinking about team offense and just passing the bat to try to get everyone into the game,” said Aleia Agbayani, who ripped a double good for two RBIs of her own in the fifth. “Those 21 runs…we made it happen.”

Behind an offense that scored the most runs in a single game since the Bears tagged Stanford for 22 in 1993, Haylei Archer took care of business in the circle. The freshman improved to 3-0 on the season and Cal to 87-0 all-time against Santa Clara.

The Broncos were likely relieved to see the Bears leave Santa Clara Softball Stadium on Wednesday evening for the Bulldog Classic, during which the Bears faced UC Davis and Fresno State for two games against each team.

After run-ruling Santa Clara in five innings, Cal kept its foot on the gas Saturday and mercy-ruled its opponent for the second straight game, this time beating the Aggies 8-0.

Batting leadoff for the blue and gold, Lauren Espalin opened up the bottom of the first with a solo shot to center and then hit a two-run fence clearer in the second to make the score 3-0. With pitcher Chloe Romero fanning batters left and right and tying a career-best seven strikeouts en route to a complete game shutout, Cal added to its lead in the fourth. Karlee Sparacino reached base on an error by the Aggies’ right fielder, and Sabrina Nunez scorched a triple down the right field line to bring her home. Later in the inning, Makena Smith rounded out her 3-for-3 showing at the plate with a single that scored Nunez and Amani Bradley.

The Bears tacked on two more in the fifth for their seventh and eighth runs of the game. But unfortunately for the Bears, the script was flipped just hours later as they fell in five to Fresno State Saturday afternoon by the same score.

That said, it wouldn’t be a weekend for Cal unless it bounced back the next day with a come-from-behind victory (or two). On Sunday morning, Davis proved more prepared than the previous day, as the Aggies jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first and then countered the Bears’ rebuttal in the fourth to regain a one-run advantage.

Espalin wouldn’t let Davis hold its lead for very long. She hit her first RBI double of the game in the top of the fifth to even the score once again. Her second RBI double with two outs in the seventh proved to be the game winner as the Bears defeated the Aggies 3-2.

In the team’s final contest at the Bulldog Classic, Cal redeemed itself against host Fresno State. Trailing 4-1 in the sixth, singles from D’Asha Saiki, Nunez and Espalin loaded the bases for Mikayla Coelho, who ripped a two-run single to left to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to one. Nicole Hammoude walked to reload the bases, and Agbayani cleared them with a grand slam to center that put the Bears up for good.

“Our team energy this past couple of games…yeah, it’s been a great time,” Agbayani said. “We just need to carry it on throughout the rest of the season.”

Cal will have a chance to do so this Wednesday when the team travels to Stockton, California, to play Pacific. The Bears will then head to Corvallis, Oregon, on Friday to kick off their Pac-12 campaign with a weekend series against Oregon State.

Allie Coyne covers softball. Contact her at [email protected].